Australia at a Glance
Living in Australia
Why do so many people opt for a new life in Australia? Listening to expats living in Australia talk about their new home, you might be tempted to think that Down Under has it all. The 6th largest country in the world also has one of the lowest population densities worldwide. People have so much space that, if they chose to settle in all parts of the country rather than just the big cities, there would be around three inhabitants per square kilometer.
The country occupies the second place in the UN Human Development Index and ranks third in the 2013 Index of Economic Freedom. Life in Australia comes with a long life expectancy, good education, a high per-capita GDP, and a low rate of poverty.
Of an estimated 22.68 million residents, the vast majority is still of European descent. This figure reflects the nation’s history as a European penal colony and the continuous attraction it has had on Europeans dreaming of a better life elsewhere.
These days, people living in Australia are of more diverse ethnic origins: according to the 2011 census, around 30% of the overseas-born residents came from Asia and Oceania. The most common ancestries are, however, still British and Irish.
Of course, there were other ethnicities living in Australia before European immigration started. Indigenous Australians, having arrived from South-East Asia, had been living in Australia for more than 50,000 years when the first Europeans set foot on the continent.
As in most instances of European settlers happening upon an indigenous civilization, the experience proved detrimental for the latter. The population of Aboriginals and Torre Strait Islanders experienced a sharp decline following the British colonization. Today, only 2.5 % of all people living in Australia are of indigenous origins.
The country is a constitutional monarchy. The residents of Australia are the subjects of Queen Elizabeth II in her role as Queen of Australia (not Queen of the United Kingdom). At the federal level, a Governor-General acts as her representative to the population. At state level, the Queen is represented by Governors.
The Commonwealth Parliament consists of an upper house and a lower house – the Senate and the House of Representatives, respectively. Moreover, each of the six states and two mainland territories has its own parliament, chosen by the electorate living in Australia.